Measuring activity in the stabled horse

H.P.B. Davidson and S.E. Redgate

Equine Studies Group, c/o Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, Melton Mowbray, United Kingdom

Measurement of activity can provide useful information about the wellbeing of an animal under certain environmental conditions. Activity measurement in the stabled horse has been limited; the aim of the present study was to compare a variety of techniques (Infrared beams (IR), Passive Infrared (PIR), Accelerometer, Pressure mats and Pedometers) that were used to assess activity of the stabled horse. These techniques were validated against video observation of behaviour in three trials over a period of several weeks using The Observer 3.0 (Noldus Information Technology). Activity parameters recorded included walking, stepping, lift leg, stand, move head and flick tail.

Table 1

Recording Technique Number of Horses
Trial 1 Trial 2 Trial 3
Infrared Beams 12 6 6
Pressure Mats 12 - -
Pedometers 12 6 6
Accelerometer - 6 6
Passive Infrared - - 6
The Observer 3.0 12 6 6

Each horse was observed in the stable (top door shut) for 90 minutes; replicated once for trial 1 and twice for trials 2 and 3. A 12' x 12' stable was fitted with four IR mini-beams; pressure mats covered the floor and a PIR was suspended from the ceiling. Prior to each test, an accelerometer was fitted around the right fore metacarpus and 2 pedometers around the left fore and hind metacarpus. A final total was noted for each pedometer, counts were logged at intervals for all other equipment. Activity parameters were recorded from video in real time as states or frequencies using The Observer 3.0.

Correlation and multiple step-wise regression analyses were carried out to determine which of the techniques were best able to detect an individual or combination of activity parameters. The results show that IR is highly correlated (R2=75%, p<0.001) with walking, stepping, lift leg and flick tail combined. The pedometers were highly correlated (R2=81%, p<0.001) with walk duration and step. The PIR readily picks up head movement (R2=68%, p<0.001). The accelerometer, however, was sensitive to the intensity of limb placement (R2=54%, p<0.001). The pressure mats did not complete the trial due to damage.

This preliminary study suggests that the IR system in combination with the pedometers provide a useful measure when evaluating total activity of the stabled horse. And it gives an indication of how we could develop reliable methods for measuring ambulatory movement. However, although time consuming, observation in conjunction with programs such as The Observer 3.0 still provide the most accurate method for collecting information on specific activities.

Poster presented at Measuring Behavior 2000, 3rd International Conference on Methods and Techniques in Behavioral Research, 15-18 August 2000, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

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